Essay / Culture

The Coarsening of America

A crucial component of a civilized people is the texture of its public discourse. Specifically, a calm, engaging tone is essential for public debate. We all tend to demonize our opponents and harsh, vulgar rhetoric feeds that tendency. Moreover, when dialog gets nasty and brutish, it is harder to learn from or acknowledge principled differences with one’s ideological opponents.

Thus, the coarsening of public dialog is no small matter and it behooves us to avoid factors that promote such coarseness. Recently, a vulgar slogan has proliferated on car bumpers and tee-shirts: “Buck Fush.” Regardless of what one thinks about cursing in private, the use of such calloused references to the “F”word is being promoted by a significant number of the far left as appropriate for public dialog. That is what concerns me.

This sort of desensitizing rhetoric is harmful and de-civilizing. Besides undermining fruitful dialogue, more than a third of Americans approve of President Bush’s performance, and many more have deep respect for the office of the President. Such rhetoric is especially polarizing for them. Curiously, such calculated cursing does not constitute the public discourse on the right. Despite conservative anger towards President Clinton, no one saw members of the local Conservative Republican Club selling “Cuck Flinton.” It is and only is the radical left that regularly and intentionally engages is such talk.

Why? First, the radical left loathes traditional values and social structures, and talk like “Buck Fush” is a way of shocking people and expressing disdain towards core American traditions and institutions (e.g., heterosexual marriage). Second, the radical left is constituted by immature, adolescent individuals whose actions (and, by implication, one cannot help but include their views) are like childish tantrums and teenage acting-out of unresolved authority issues. Course rhetoric is usually a substitute for good arguments.

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